Everett puts up a defensive wall, stops East Lansing in its tracks to stay a game behind Grand Ledge in the CAC
Lansing – Desmond Ferguson was somewhat subdued minutes after his Lansing Everett team defeated East Lansing, 54-44, limiting the Trojans to six field goals and 15 points in the second half.
Ferguson, in his third season as Everett’s head coach, didn’t downplay the importance of the victory in the competitive Capital Area Conference Blue Division. Ferguson just realizes that there are bigger fish to fry.
Everett (14-2, 10-1), ranked No. 10 in Class A, played poorly in the first half and trailed 29-21.
Ferguson didn’t care for his team’s lack of energy, intensity or their defensive pressure during the first 16 minutes of play, and told them so as halftime.
It took Everett less than two minutes to wipe out East Lansing’s lead. Trevor Manuel’s dunk tied the game at 31-31 1:50 into the half.
“Defense was the key,” Ferguson said. “Our defense was horrible in the first half. They weren’t hustling. They didn’t come out with that fire.
“Trevor was more aggressive in the second half. He’s a great player. He’s able to light his own fire.”
Manuel is a 6-9 forward who signed with Oregon. It’s likely he will be a Mr. Basketball candidate, and deservedly so. Manuel is athletic and when he’s active he’s difficult to defend for just one player.
Freshman Brandon Johns, for the most part, played Manuel even up. Johns is 6-7 and, like Manuel, is comfortable playing inside and on the perimeter. There were times that Johns didn’t stay with Manuel, particularly in the second half, and it cost him.
Johns’ dunk tied the game at 35-35 with 2:27 left in the third quarter but those were the last points he would score.
East Lansing (8-7, 6-5) entered the game on a five-game winning streak and it regained the lead, 38-37, on a Casey Ring free throw with 6:17 remaining.
Everett took control by going on a 14-4 run over the next 3:45 and East Lansing had little left in the tank. LeAndre Wright’s two baskets completed the run and the Vikings had their second victory of the season over East Lansing.
On Jan. 13 East Lansing held a 10-point lead over Everett before letting that game slip away (62-56).
“They turned up the pressure,” East Lansing coach Steve Finamore said. “And we succumbed to it. That happened in the first game.
“We tend to forget about Trevor. We seem to lose sight of him. He’s our focal point. Him and (Jamyrin) Jackson. We’re a young team. There were times out there where we had three sophomores and a freshman on the court.”
Everett was that was last season. The Vikings won just five games with a young team. Now Ferguson starts three seniors, a junior and a sophomore.
Manuel led Everett with 13 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks. Jackson scored 17 points.
Mikhail Myles led East Lansing with 18 points and Johns was held to nine points (3.5 below his average), seven rebounds and four blocks.
Ferguson wasn’t celebrating this victory. He doesn’t have time. He was already thinking about Friday’s showdown at Grand Ledge. On Jan. 16 Everett lost at home to Grand Ledge 67-60. Grand Ledge is 16-0 and ranked No. 8 in Class A. With three Blue Division games remaining, Grand Ledge is 11-0 and can clinch at least a share of the title with a victory.
“Our conference is tough,” Ferguson said. “To get any conference win is good.
“Grand Ledge is good. They’re solid. They don’t have any superstars. They play well together.”